Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll

From Lewis Carroll in cyberspace by Robert McFarlane, The Guardian, 2001-08-12:

[…] Perhaps a useful way to think of Adams is as the Lewis Carroll of the twentieth century. Both writers possessed an admirable knack for creating alternative worlds. Both laboured unthinkably hard behind the scenes to give their writing the appearance of madcap tomfoolery, which just happened to hit on accidental truths. And both had serious satirical points to make about the dogmatisms of their respective ages.

Carroll, along with Wodehouse, was one of Adams’s comic heroes, and his affection for him tinges his writing. Like Carroll’s fabulous mock-epic poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), the Hitchhiker series is a brilliant skit on quests for ultimate meaning of any kind. Carroll’s crew fruitlessly pursues the Snark, while Adams portrays the Earth as a miscued mega-computer vainly dedicated to calculating the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. That it eventually spits out ’42’ is a nod to Carroll, who was obsessed with the number.

Adams also shared with Carroll a love of pataphysical nonsense, as in the Vogon Captain’s lovelorn ode, which causes Arthur Dent such unimaginable suffering early in Hitchhiker:

Oh freddled gruntbuggly!
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits in a lurgid bee
Groop I implore thee my foonting turlingdomes
And hopptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewerdles.

This is, in its deranged and glorious musicality, a clear homage to Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ poem – “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe’. […]

Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started as a science fiction comedy radio series. It was originally broadcasted in the United Kingdom by BBC Radio 4 in 1978 (available e.g. in The episodes where “Fits”, like in The Hunting of the Snark. (See also “Fytte” in Bards of Burns. A Lay of ye Crystalle Palace., Punch, XXXVI, pp. 48-49, 1859-01-29.)

※ Sarah Stanfield, “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Wonderland: Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll”, pp. 28~46, The Carrollian, Issue 33, March 2020. (Thanks to @ZZ9official for the Tweet.)

Links: Eternal Disconnect | 42 Boxes | 42 Articles |Jabberwocky

2018-01-06, update: 2024-04-12

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